As a lifelong fan of The X Files I have long hoped for the opportunity to share my thoughts and opinions on the series from an academic perspective. Now, it would appear, I finally have that opportunity!
Despite Mulder and Scully’s willingness to engage with the supernatural, paranormal, and mystical, when it came to alternate religious movements and “cults” both seemed hesitant to entertain the possible legitimacy of alternative religious belief. More troublingly, fringe religions often became a coded language, which questioned ethnic and racial minorities, whose spiritual practices were used to construe them as dangerous. This chapter considers episodes of The X Files which focus on alternate spiritualities and New Religious Movements (NRMs), with a view towards how they were portrayed (often unflatteringly) in the series.
My analysis is anchored by The Field Where I Died (04.05), which acts as a mid-point in the narrative arc of the original 9 seasons of the series. Unlike other episodes, it has obvious parallels to the 1993 Branch Davidian siege at Waco, whilst also recalling the horror of the mass suicides in Jonestown (1978). Rather than embracing governmental distrust, the overarching ethos of the series, the episode upholds political rhetoric by insinuating that members of fringe religions are inherently evil, violent, and abusive; whilst also suggesting that it is the responsibility of the government to “free” members from such deviant faith communities. Similar themes are further evident in episodes of the series which use the NRM/ alternative spirituality trope. These too suggest that anything outside of the white, Christian identity is inherently dangerous, and should not be trusted. Retrospectively, this attitude is problematic for the legacy of the series, which has otherwise been upheld as the pinnacle of promoting mistrust in the established order by encouraging viewers to “trust no one”.
Other episodes featured within my discussion include Gender Bender (01.14) Miracle Man (01.18), Red Museum (02.10), Die Hand Die Dervetzt (02.14), Fresh Bones (04.18), Revelations (03.11), Kaddish (04.15), Arcadia (06.15), Milagro (06.18), Signs and Wonders (07.09) and Theef (07.14).